Poetry as a Second Language

February 13, 2012

Mihaela Moscaliuc, Illya Kaminsky, and Carol Frost

Poets Mihaela Moscaliuc and Ilya Kaminsky discuss the art of poetry with Carol Frost at Thursday's Winter With the Writers event. (Photo by Justin Braun)

On Thursday, February 6, Mihaela Moscaliuc and Ilya Kaminsky shared insight on how moving to America and learning English after coming of age in communist Romania and Odessa shaped their lives and their art. At Rollins as part of Winter With the Writers, the two contemporary poets transported audience members to scenes of eastern European life under communist rule.

Reading excerpts of works both new and old, Moscaliuc and Kaminsky spoke each word with enchanting dynamics and flowing cadence. Yet, the tone of their art was dark. “Unfortunately, I don’t have many happy poems,” Moscaliuc commented. “I guess that’s what growing up in communism does.” In spite of the despairing musings on life under an oppressive regime, those in attendance could not help but be entranced by the beautiful prose.

“We listen and read fiction and poetry for words that tell us about ourselves and the world,” said Carol Frost, director of Winter With the Writers. Frost, who is the Theodore Bruce and Barbara Lawrence Alfond Professor of English and renowned poet and author, was given high praise from Moscaliuc. “She is not only an amazing poet, she is a poet’s poet, which is one of the greatest accolades in the poet’s world,” said Moscaliuc.

For aspiring poets, Moscaliuc and Kaminsky offered attendees of their master classes new perspective on the use of language in poetry. “The two poets described how learning English helped them to realize the importance of each individual word in their poems,” commented Winter With the Writers intern Amanda Hampton ’12. “They taught me how to balance my personal voice while playing with language.”

“Coming to the English language as a foreigner, I became infatuated with every word,” Moscaliuc said. “Poetry was a great way for me to liberate the language.”

When asked what an aspiring writer must do to become so distinguished as she, Moscaliuc explained that natural talent does not dictate the success of a poet. “I came to writing out of a sense of necessity,” explained Moscaliuc on how she used her poetry as a means to capture her childhood memories before they were forgotten. “You can live and breathe poetry and it can change your life. If you’re passionate, you can become a poet. Just stay with it and keep writing.” Kaminsky added, “and go to the library.”

The next installment in the Winter With the Writers series will be held on Thursday, February 16, with a master class and reading by bestselling author and poet Paula McLain. For more information, please visit the Winter With the Writers website.

By Justin Braun

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